As I write this, I sit in the Philadelphia airport, one that’s become very familiar to me over the last couple years –– I fly through here almost every time I go to Virginia to visit my partner, Ell. Despite initially having ––
–– I just saw a guy drop his whole container of noodles all over this gate’s carpet. We briefly exchanged a heartbroken look. Now I’m back. ––
–– bad associations with this airport (as a child I got stuck here with my grandparents for something like 8 or 9 hours on our way back from Disney World, due to a storm; we almost had to sleep here that night; I feel I can now, finally, appreciate it. The airport, that is, not the 9 hour layover.
The only upside to that layover was the fact that it was at that airport’s bookstore that I first got Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which I read faithfully for several volumes and which certainly helped keep me busy at the time. I must have been about eight and the first book was new and being advertised everywhere. I had never read a “graphic novel” before and didn’t end up reading any others for a long time after. I got back into them after being required to read Persepolis as a sophomore in high school, which I think is a fairly common experience*. On this flight from Norfolk to Philadelphia, I also read a graphic novel, called Kiss Number 8. I won it as an ARC from Goodreads (I know, people actually win those giveaways! I was shocked too). It was good; from a publisher whose works I generally like, and –– though it had problems –– was a really honest exploration of intergenerational grappling with LGBTQ identity. Some elements of the family-drama aspect were resolved in frustrating ways, or left unresolved and unaddressed by the end of the story, but it was a fast and enjoyable read.
As for the trip itself: I had a wonderful time, as always, in Virginia. We visited Ell’s friends, spent some time in the mountains, went to the shore and to a gorgeous park whose center was a lake. The lake, Ell said, reminded them of a “New England summer camp,” and they were right, even though they’d only ever been to New England twice before (both times to visit me, and not to camp!). The weather was outstanding. Yesterday as we walked on the trail, I felt my back getting sweaty! I wore shorts and a t-shirt. It was about 75º at the hottest part of the day. It was a shock to my body after such a bitter winter, but much appreciated. I’m not looking forward to putting my winter coat back on once I’m back in CT/MA.
Additionally, while in the mountains, I finally broke through something of a creative (poetic?) block. It’s something about sitting on the mossy rocks in the middle of a foaming river that really lets my mind stop clenching around every word I think, trying to force something pretty out. I’ve been sitting and ruminating and forcing myself to write too much, but I feel terrible when I don’t –– there’s really no good way to resolve this. Of course, I’ve been opening my poems, tweaking them, and closing them all along; I’ve been writing at least a tiny bit of my longer project every day. I’ve been giving myself the opportunity to add something important to my creative body. But it really took a period of time away from school, away from the same old seat in the same old dining hall, for something I was at least semi-satisfied with to come out of my head. I can’t promise myself I’ll actually put this reflection to use in my life moving forward, but I’m glad I’m recording it here.
Speaking of projects, this past week has had me feeling weird about not writing much for my independent study on transbutchness. But just today, I had an interesting experience; airports are a really fascinating (and terrifying!) study in interpellation; for me, relating to gender specifically.
I had just said goodbye to Ell and was about to walk through the body scanner at security, when the agent operating the machine asked me “what [I] wanted to be scanned as.” I had to ask for clarification. She cleared her throat and said, somewhat uncomfortably, “there’s a pink option and a blue option.” Fascinating that, throughout that entire interaction, no one even said the words, “gender”, “sex”, “male”, “female”, “man”, “woman”, etc! Sexgender, when ambiguous, is something too taboo to name but too ubiquitous not to reference endlessly in institutional spaces. All that time, what they really wanted to know was whether I had a penis or a vagina. Which they would have then needed to emphasize as the question, “male or female?” and then further with “man or woman?” and then, because they took it a step further, “the pink option or the blue option?”
Because I happen to prefer the color blue and because I didn’t want to give them the satisfaction of girling me against my will, I said, “Um…I’ll go blue.” She had not expected that answer. I had not expected it from my mouth. She signaled to the male agent to pat my arms down after my body was scanned initially. He put up a polite fight, looking at me anxiously, trying to flag down the female agent, the machine’s operator, who was now onto the next person in line. She said, of me, “she said blue.” The man said to me, “Ma’am???” as if he was hoping for me to deny it. I just stood there, waiting for him to pat my arms and let me put my shoes back on. Finally, with a look of resignation, he beckoned me to him and said, “I’m going to pat down your arms, alright?” I said, “Sure.” He did, and after less than ten seconds, I was out. But *writer voice* I had been out long before then, hadn’t I?
With that, I’m going to wrap up this post and get it on the blog before my laptop’s battery gets too low. Thanks for reading even after my (somewhat, I guess?) prolonged absence. 44 minutes until boarding begins!
*Either with that or with Maus, the latter of which I did not have to read for school but have still read and much appreciate.